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Major Grandad by Gator
This is not my story. I found it on the Wayback Machine site.
By a Recruit
My grandfather, my mother's father, was a career Army man, from the old school. By the time I remember him, he had retired. He still worked, but mostly for something to do. Every summer when I was growing up, starting when I was maybe 7, he and Grandma came to visit for the month of July. I was his only grandchild; my Aunt and uncle had no children. I loved those visits; he did all sorts of things with me. We went fishing, went to ball games, the carnival, hikes in the woods, you name it. One thing that definitely didn't suit him was "the way the kids dress and behave these days. They all want to look like hippies with those crazy clothes. And the hair! Boys should have proper haircuts! If I had my way, I'd take the clippers to the lot of them!" Well, I don't know that he ever made that particular speech, but he sure made it clear what his opinions were.
I guess that first summer he must have said something to my mother, because one morning he announced that we were going to the barbers. I don't remember what kind of haircut I had, but from the old photographs, I guess it was a sort of bowl cut, not real long, but not exactly short either. I remember that he got his hair cut first. He was a little thin on top, not really bald, and he kept it pretty short, especially on the sides. Then it was my turn to climb up into the chair. I don't remember him saying anything to the barber, but he must have. The one thing I remember about getting that haircut was having the clippers running over the top of my head and all the big hunks of hair falling off on the sheet in my lap. When he was done and I could look in the big mirror, I could see that I had a brushcut. On the way home I kept feeling of my head with the brush of hair on top and the bristly sides and back. When we got home I remember that Granddad told me that that was a real haircut. I liked the freedom from combing and shampooing that summer brushcut gave me, and I liked the feel of it. A couple of weeks later, towards the end of his visit he announced at breakfast that it was haircut time again. I never got haircuts that often, but Mom just laughed and told me to go along. I didn't have much hair to lose, but I liked getting back the crisp feeling.
The following year Mom suggested that I get a brushcut before Granddad came, and that was the pattern for the next few years. Always in the middle of the visit we made our expedition to the barbershop. On the way, he would kiddingly ask me what kind of haircut I was going to get. He always asked if I didn't want a real GI cut - the kind they gave the new recruits. I wasn't sure if he meant it or not, but I never said yes. Granddad would get his haircut first and then always tell the barber how to cut mine - real close way up the sides and back and nice and short on the top. In today's terms, I would walk out of there with a high and tight. I never minded these expeditions. I loved going places with Granddad and I grew more and more to like the short haircuts.
As I got older I would keep the brushcut well into the Fall, but not the skinned sides. As I grew older, and began to have more of my own interests, and as Granddad grew older, too, we didn't do quite as much together, but I still enjoyed his company and we remained close. The haircut trip was one tradition that we kept, as much by my choosing as by his. And always the offer of the induction cut but coming home with the high and tight. The summer after my Junior year in High School it wasn't certain that my grandparents would be coming at all. Granddad had been ill during the winter, but he was determined to make the trip. I had abandoned my year-round brushcut of the past few years and had let my hair grow out a bit for a change. Before they came I got it cut, but settled for a short Ivy League. Granddad didn't comment on my haircut. He had aged a great deal, and I realized that he was getting to be an old man, frail and not well. We did just a few things. We fished one morning and he seemed like his old self, but got tired after only a couple of hours. The other big change in our lives was that I was now driving him places, rather than the other way around. We did go to a ballgame, but we spent a lot of time talking and playing cards.
There was only about a week left in their visit and nothing had been said about the haircut trip. I was pretty upset about the changes and one day I brought it up at breakfast. Granddad brightened up considerably and said sure, let’s do it. I guess with my Ivy League cut he had figured I didn't want the usual summer brushcut. As I watched him limping slowly to the car I realized that this was probably the last time we would ever do this, and my mind went back over all the years we had had together. I think I did 3 or 4 years of growing up on that trip to the barber shop, as I realized that all good things do unfortunately, come to an end.
When we got to the shop he said that he was too tired to get his own haircut and that I should just go in and get mine. He would stay in the car in the shade. As I got out of the car he laughed and asked me if I was going to get that GI induction cut. The shop was empty of customers. The barber who had done these summer cuts all these years asked for my granddad. I told him he was in the car, so he went out to chat for a minute. While he was gone, I stood looking at my reflection in the mirror. This might be my last haircut for granddad, so make it a good one. When the barber came back I climbed into the chair. He asked what I wanted. I told him that Granddad had always suggested an induction cut, but I had never wanted to do it. I didn't know if he really wanted me to get one, but today was the day! The barber asked me if I wanted the shortest clippers or what. What the hell, go for it! It would have been easier if he had started right up the middle, but he began around the back and sides like he usually did. Then he moved up high on my head, like the old high and tights. At that point he switched off the clippers and brushed the hairs out of the blades. He switched them on again and came to the front of my head, and asked if I was still sure. I could have changed my mind, but I thought of Granddad and just nodded. He dropped the clippers onto my forehead and slid them back. The chair was turned away from the mirror, so I couldn't see, but I could feel those blades making short, very short, work of my Ivy League. It only took a moment and he swung me around and dusted me off. I looked really bald in the strong overhead light. I stepped to the mirror and surveyed my head with its microscopic stubble. Well, it didn't look half bad, and would look better with a little tan. I went out to the car wondering what Granddad would say. He looked at me as I got in and with a big grin told me that it had taken me long enough, but I finally had a proper haircut. I wished right then that I had done it years ago, and was very glad that I had done it now.
After that trip, I never saw my Granddad again. He died in late January. We flew out for the funeral and afterwards his lawyer took me and Dad aside. "Your Granddad always planned to pay for your college education. I wouldn't call him rich, but he had made some very good investments. Since he can't write you the checks himself, he has left you a pretty sizeable sum in his will. It is in a trust, but every summer if you send me the bills for your college expenses, I will get you a check. The amount is large enough, so the income should cover it, even if you want to go to graduate school or med school. In 10 years, you get the entire trust amount. As your Granddad said, it's enough to get you into trouble, but not enough to get you out. In June, after my graduation, I did just that, sent him copies of the bills for tuition and room and board. The letter came in the middle of July. Included was a note in my Granddad's handwriting: Dear J......, I wish I could hand you this in person, but that was not to be. The best of luck in college; work hard and be a credit to the family. The check will cover your expenses and there is an extra $500 for pocket money, pizza, and oh yes, haircuts. Love, Granddad. When I could see again, I went to the bank and deposited the check, all but $10. I drove to the barber shop and walked in. I had a fair mop of hair that I had grown for Graduation, but the clippers made short work of it as I got another GI induction cut for Granddad.